Today’s Art (4th September 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the second comic in my ‘back to basics’ “Damania Relaxation” webcomic mini series. If you missed the ‘old-school’ mini series (where every comic was self-contained), then you’re in luck!

If you want to catch up on other old-style mini series, or check out some of the more recent story-based ones, links to them all can be found here. You can also check out previous comics in this mini series here: One

As regular readers probably know, I make these comics ages in advance. So, I made this one in 2016 – which really did feel like the beginning of a “dystopian alternate timeline” sub-plot in a sci-fi series. And, yes, I’m terrible at drawing Nigel Farage too.

As usual, this comic update (but not yesterday’s one!) is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Relaxation - Timeline" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Relaxation – Timeline” By C. A. Brown

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Today’s Art (3rd June 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the third comic in “Damania Revelry”, a new webcomic mini series which is also a partial remake of an old story arc from 2013 (if you don’t mind my crappy old artwork, the original story arc can be read here, here and here ).

Links to many more recent comics can also be found on this page.

Yes, this comic was originally going to be a broadside against this particular (UK) law from last year. However, I eventually ended up taking a slightly more nuanced and realistic look at the subject and how some of the people who dislike the law often have somewhat rose-tinted memories of the effects (or lack thereof) and/or pleasantness (or lack thereof) of the average (formerly) legal herbal offerings from the hippie shops, festival stalls etc… a few years ago.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Revelry - Authentic" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Revelry – Authentic” By C. A. Brown

Making Impulsive Creative Projects – A Ramble

2017 Artwork Impulsive Projects article

Last summer, I had a moment when I just had to make a political cartoon. I hadn’t really planned it beforehand (the only planning involved how to turn the cynical mental images that had suddenly appeared in my mind into a coherent comic) or even wanted to make it, I just had to make it.

It was, of course, in response to the “it would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t real” news that Boris Johnson had been appointed (UK) foreign secretary….

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?” By C. A. Brown

This, of course, brings me on to the subject of impulsive creative projects. These are projects that suddenly emerge from strong emotions, feelings or reactions. They’re unplanned and they’re often some of the best things that you’ll ever make.

It doesn’t matter how uninspired you were beforehand, as soon as something compels you to make one of these projects, you’ll have more inspiration than you could want. Ok, they’re usually created in response to bad things (eg: using dark humour to cope with terrible political news) but they often feel amazing to make regardless, in a similar way to a highly inspired project.

Not only that, impulsive projects serve as a sudden test of your writing and/or artistic abilities too. Quite a few years ago, whenever something prompted me to make a sudden cartoon, it often wasn’t fit for publication. The politics was often too heavy-handed or the emotional content was too blatant.

It’s only after spending over a year making comics semi-regularly again that I’ve reached the stage when I feel like any impulsive projects I make are actually good enough for publication.

This, interestingly, brings me on to one of the most confusing elements of impulsive projects. Although you primarily make the project for yourself, it often has to be something that is good enough to share. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with making private projects for emotional catharsis, one of the most powerful things about making impulsive cartoons is the powerful feeling of sharing your views with the world.

The thing to remember here of course is that, regardless of which emotions motivate you, you need to add some humour, theatricality, artistic skill and/or serious commentary. After all, other people have to look at it too.

This is especially true for impulsive projects that have been motivated by anger. For example, during John Whittingdale’s (thankfully brief) tenure as culture secretary last year, I was absolutely incensed by the fact that he planned to weaken the BBC (in order to strengthen commercial channels, bastions of quality programming that they are…), so I made this angry cartoon:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Our 'Culture' Secretary!" By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Our ‘Culture’ Secretary!” By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

Thankfully, I had enough artistic experience to present this opinion in a slightly toned down way. I knew enough about colour theory to add a menacing blue/red colour scheme to the painting. I was able to use visual metaphors in the background to make a point about the two different types of TV stations. Not only that, I was able to make him look a bit like a pantomime villain through subtle facial expressions.

A few years ago, when my knowledge of all of these things was less sophisticated, I’d have probably just drawn something ridiculously crass or extremely unsophisticated, before wisely deciding not to post it online. So, yes, being able to make even vaguely acceptable impulsive projects is a tough test of your creative skills.

But, all of this aside, impulsive projects are one of the best types of creative projects because they feel like pure self-expression. Rather than just speaking about your feelings or writing an online comment about them, spontaneously turning your strong feelings into an actual thing seems like a much more cathartic and powerful form of self-expression.

Just remember that, if you’re going to publish it, it should be something that other people will actually want to look at.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Editorial Cartoon: “Dangerous People”

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Dangerous People" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Dangerous People” By C. A. Brown

Although I often try to avoid politics (let alone international politics) on this blog, I just had to make a political cartoon about recent political events in America. Although this cartoon won’t exactly change the world, it was one of those moments where (if slightly belatedly) I felt strongly compelled to express a moral opinion about current affairs.

The fact that Trump could so casually cause chaos and fear for many families in America, that he could be so callous towards courageous Iraqi interpreters who have helped American troops (at great personal risk), that he bizarrely believes that Syrian refugees somehow pose a security threat [eg: They’ve been forced to flee from violent religious extremists. They probably hate both violence and the extremists even more than everyone else does!] etc.. is deeply chilling, regardless of who you may be. Trump’s preference for ruling by decree executive order and his willingness to ban people based purely on their place of birth is worrying for everyone, regardless of nationality or political views.

Likewise, in the UK, this decree executive order led to a situation where one of our most respected Olympic athletes, Sir Mo Farah, worried whether he’d be able to see his family living in the US. Where a member of parliament feared that he’d be unable to visit family members studying in the US. And where a vet from Glasgow was stranded in an airport in Costa Rica due to not being allowed a transit visa via the US. How any President could be deranged enough to think that these respectable Britons pose any kind of “security risk” is completely beyond me.

There was a lot of fanfare and press attention about the fact that Trump had moved the bust of Churchill back into the Oval Office. But, after this order, it seems clear that Trump has no sense of history. I mean, despite Churchill’s imperial past and conservative opinions, he was most famous for opposing things like extreme nationalism, undemocratic rule by decree etc…

Likewise, Trump’s order also means that the author/illustrator of one of the truly great graphic novels that I’ve read (“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi) could also potentially be banned from the US. Why any country would deny entry to such a talented writer/artist is completely beyond me. Hell, one of the things that reading this comic taught me was that – even in despotic countries with strict, fanatical governments – most people who live there are just ordinary people. Ordinary people who like to have fun, to listen to music, to fall in love and to dream. It’s a graphic novel that Trump and his cabinet would do well to read.

In Trump’s own words, all of this is extremely. Sad.

When Should You Make Political Cartoons? – A Ramble

2016 Artwork When Should You Make Political Cartoons

I know that I talked about cartoons and satire in yesterday’s article, but I had a rather interesting experience a few months ago that I thought I’d revisit briefly because of what it might explain about political cartoons. Or, more accurately, when you should make them.

Although I hardly ever make political cartoons, I suddenly found myself making one earlier this year. I didn’t plan to make a political cartoon that day, but I did.

It was prompted by reading a few news articles earlier this year about the (then) Culture Secretary’s planned changes to the BBC Charter (like this one and this one ). As soon as I realised the full horror of what these proposed changes meant, I suddenly felt compelled to respond with a cynical political cartoon.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Our 'Culture' Secretary!" By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Our ‘Culture’ Secretary!” By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

The interesting thing was that I didn’t really set out to make a political cartoon, it just kind of happened. Amidst the emotions that these articles had provoked, a fully-formed idea popped into my mind and, within a couple of hours, I’d made a cynical political cartoon. To say that making this cartoon was a cathartic experience would be an understatement.

This, I think, is when political cartoons are at their absolute best. When you feel like you absolutely have to make a political cartoon, then it’s probably going to come straight from the heart and it’s probably going to have real meaning behind it (or at least it’ll feel like it does).

If making a politcal cartoon genuinely feels, even for a moment, like it’s a way to fight back against some event or possibility that you feel powerless about, then it’s worth making. As paradoxical as it might sound, political cartoons that come from a feeling of powerlessness are often the most powerful types of political cartoons.

If you have an attitude of being reluctant to make political art, then – as counter-intuitive as it might sound– it usually means that you’ll only produce political cartoons when it really matters to you. In other words, you’ll be intensely focused on trying to find a way to get your opinions across as powerfully and effectively as possible, because anything less just wouldn’t be right.

This is when the very best political cartoons are made. In situations where the idea of not making a political cartoon is more strange/frightening/unusual etc.. than actually making a political cartoon is.

There have been a couple of times where I’ve tried to make more “light-hearted” political cartoons, because I thought that they’d be funny or topical. But, because they don’t really have the same level of passion or emotion behind them as my more “angry” political cartoons, the quality is significantly lower as a result. Like with this mediocre cartoon I made about a silly publicity stunt by the Labour party before the 2015 UK general election:

"Ed's New Tablet" By C. A. Brown [4th May 2015]

“Ed’s New Tablet” By C. A. Brown [4th May 2015]

So, ironically, you can sometimes produce better political cartoons by not making them regularly. Unless, of course, you plan on becoming a professional political cartoonist (in which case, practice, practice and practice some more).

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Sorry for the ridiculously short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Politics, Consistency And Creativity – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Politics and consistency

[Update: Sorry about posting this article late, there seems to have been a scheduling error of some kind].

Although I often try to avoid writing about politics on here, I had a rather interesting experience shortly before writing this article that made me think about politics and creativity. But, although this will be a rambling article about writing and comics, I’m going to have to start by talking about music for a while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this.

A while ago, I ended up having a random conversation about politics and heavy metal music. This made me think about the politics of my favourite metal band (Iron Maiden) and I quickly realised something very interesting. Although most of their songs are completely apolitical, when they do include political topics in their songs, they are often handled in wonderfully variable ways.

For example, for every cynical song about organised religion, there’s also usually one that uses religious imagery in a reverent/serious/dramatic way. Likewise, although many of their more recent songs about war have a strongly pacifist message, they’ve also made some rousingly epic songs about historical battles earlier in their career (eg: one of their most famous songs is “The Trooper“, which is about the charge of the light brigade during the Crimean War).

Personally, I think that this is one of the many things that makes them such an amazing band. Their songs have a kind of honesty to them, where you get the sense that they’ve thought about both sides of a particular issue. You get the sense that their songs are actual nuanced self-expression, rather than a political lecture of any kind.

This made me think about my own creative works and how many of the political views I’ve expressed in them have gradually changed over time. Most of the time, I try to keep my art, comics etc… fairly apolitical and/or open to different interpretations (eg: one of my favourite things to do is to ridicule both conservatives and liberals at the same time), but politics can seep into them sometimes. When this has happened, I’ve noticed changes over time.

Although my views about a few issues haven’t changed, I’ve noticed that some of my older comics tended to have a somewhat more strongly liberal outlook than many of my modern comics (which can be anything from liberal to conservative, depending on the comic itself and the mood I was in when I made it).

There’s this foolish idea that writers, artists etc… should express consistent political views throughout their entire body of work. Whilst a few creative people hold the same political views throughout their entire lives, this just isn’t the case for many people. I mean, you only have to look at how public opinion about various issues has changed over time to see that many people’s opinions aren’t carved in stone.

I’m only using a sample of one here, but there have been times in my life where I’ve been somewhat conservative, there have been times where I’ve been very liberal and there have been many more times where I’ve been somewhere in between.

It’s always interesting how the people who write fervently about how artists, fiction writers etc… should consistently express a particular political viewpoint in their works are very rarely artists or fiction writers themselves. In fact, they’re usually critics. And you should probably ignore them.

Why? Because the whole point of making art, writing fiction or making comics is to express yourself. It’s to translate the contents of your imagination into something that other people can enjoy. As you change and grow older, your imagination also changes. In a way, everything you make is a reflection of who you were at a particular point in time.

So, if you hold strong political views and have held them for a long time, then by all means include them in the things that you create (but try to do it subtly because no-one likes being lectured at). But if, like most people, you hold a variety of changeable opinions, then don’t feel like you have to express “consistent” views just because a critic tells you that this is what you “should” be doing. Just express your views when you feel it is appropriate to do so.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

One Easy Way To Make Your Characters’ Political Opinions More Realistic

2016 Artwork Political opinions and characters article sketch

Well, although I often (not not always) try to avoid discussing anything related to politics on this blog, I was in the mood for talking about politics and creativity again.

So, I thought that I’d look at how to handle political opinions in fiction today. Or, more precisely, I’ll be talking about an easy way to give your characters more nuanced and realistic opinions.

It’s a very easy thing to write a “liberal” or a “conservative” character. If you have a basic understanding of modern politics (in whichever country you are living in), then you’ll know that “liberals have these opinions” and “conservatives have those opinions”. It’s a very simplistic and binary thing, and it makes for very simplistic characters when used in fiction

But, as we all know, the real world doesn’t work like that. There are very few people who are “100% conservative” or “100% liberal”. If there were, elections would be ridiculously predictable things and democracy itself would probably end up unravelling after a while.

As you probably already know, many people have a mixture of opinions. They may be mostly conservative, or mostly liberal or somewhere in between, but very few people are firmly on one side or another. But, how can you portray this realistically in fiction?

Simple. Make your characters’ opinions issue-based, rather than politics-based.

What do I mean by this? Well, instead of deciding whether your character is “liberal” or “conservative”, just decide what their opinions about various issues are. If you’re not sure about this, then look at your character’s history, personality etc.. and ask yourself “If I met someone like that, what opinions would I expect them to have about this particular subject?

Once you’ve decided this, then you’ll probably have a character who has a more nuanced set of political opinions and is far more interesting to read than a character who rigidly follows either conservative or liberal orthodoxy.

If your characters follow their opinions about one subject (regardless of their opinions about other subjects), then you’ll end up with dramatically interesting situations where, for example, a mostly conservative character may agree with a liberal character about one issue, but disagrees with them about a lot of other things.

So, if you want to give your characters more interesting political views, then look at their views about individual issues, rather than their views about politics as a whole.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂